Category Archives: Australia

Australia round up

I know you’re all wondering what we’re up to in Japan but we have a few loose ends to fix up for Australia first.

Here goes then:

GOOD THINGS

Wildlife.
It was worth going to Australia to experience the wildlife, even if we did have to endure some other things we didn’t like. Here’s a list of wildlife that got me really giddy:

Green Tree Ants – These little fellas are ace! They’re quite cute too. I liked them because they made really cool nests out of leaves. You could tap the edge and they would all come out to investigate. Unlike other ants they don’t seem to bite you just for the sake of it. They spend a lot of time wandering around aimlessly in circles (my kind of ant!) You can make them jump too and they suddenly become all alert and start looking around. My favourite Austailian creature without a doubt.

Flying foxes/fruit bats – Seriously fantastic large, noisy and messy. They are quite a sight and fling fruit stones at amazing velocities. Brilliant.

Sneaky the Croc – I LOVE SNEAKY THE CROC!

Froggies! – Loads of tree frogs, pretty tame too.

We also liked:

Cute little pademelons (tiny wallabies)
Kookaboras (Noisy and funny)
Really interesting insects (like the leafy Katydid which just looks like a leaf and the Rhino beetles)
Monitor lizards (The carpet carriers of the lizard world, when they basked in the sun they flattened their legs like a spaniel would)
Lots of snakes.

There were also wildlife experiences to note. We enjoyed camping in our little tent. It took a bit of getting used to with all of the strange noises. The Kookaboras sound like evil little goblins, tawney frog mouths (a little like owls) sound like darth vadar when they hang around your tent. Actually we only experienced this once, maybe our frog mouth was asthmatic…. Dingos howling and possums trying to break into the tent were other experiences.

Another thing to note is the number of things that can kill you. There are jelly fish that can leave you deceased so you have to wear a stinger suit. In southern queensland the water is too shark infested to swim in at all. There are 20 species of poisonous snake that could kill you and two deadly venamous spiders. On top of all of that we got leeches on our legs on one rainforest trip, not deadly but pretty unpleasant. It all adds up to make you a little nervous.

Ecology

Amazing rainforests protected by mangrove forests. Fire dependant Eucalypt forests. They all varied to an increadible degree between sites. I’m sure that those of you who’ve seen my flickr site recently will be worried about being bored to tears by me spouting off about a load of plants. I’ll leave it at that but they were fascinating.

BAD THINGS

This is where we risk repeating the rants. I’ll keep it brief.

The wrong kind of tourists

Bloody bratpackers! In truth we only really met one fellow traveller that was really on our wavelength and that was Jonas from Amsterdam. He was a bit nearer our age and was capable of intelligent conversation about interesting and important things. He was a good laugh and liked to drink too, (bonus Jonas!)

NO PUBLIC TRANSPONRT! BEING FORCED TO GO ON TOURS IF WE WANTED TO SEE ANYTHING! Grr!

There are some amazing natural treasures in Australia including some huge Lava tube formations. We couldn’t afford to go and see them because of the above reasons. I think it would have cost us about £200 each just for a day. I feel sorry for Australian children from less well off families who don’t have the funds to see some of the things that they should have right of access to as far as i’m concerned. The Lava tubes are privately owned and visitors are exploited.

Last but not least. The beer was crap.

HELLO JAPAN, HOW LOVELY TO SEE YOU! show_random($num=4, $tags=’Missionbeach’); ?>

Japan here we come!

We got bored with Australia and booked some tickets to go and see Keith early. We’re off on Saturday!
John’s researched the best airport sleeping spots in Hong Kong so we might look vaugely human by the time we arrive there on Sunday.

(Mums: Keith will be in charge of us for the duration of our stay in Japan, therefore he will be responsible for our behaviour. His telephone number is….. ha ha! Sorry Keith, just thought I might have your heart racing there for a moment.)

So, what have we been doing since John last wrote? We’ve locked ourselves in a room to judge the caption competition. There have been some major fights, i’m surprised we’re still together. Not really 😉

The best thing we did was go croc spotting last night. It was ace. There was a 2m croc called sneaky. I never thought i’d consider a croc to be cute but he was gorgeous. I think our guide was aware of this and did say. ‘Now don’t forget crocs are mean and do want to kill you.’ Aww never. Far too adorable.

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We spotted some wild Kites and Eagles that swooped down for food. We did a bit of mud crabbing too. The warning the guide gave me reminded me of my favourite quote by a person we’ve met in Australia. We were at a campsite in Maryborough and talking about Sharks. The guy said:

‘Me and them sharks have got an understanding you see, I stay away from them and they don’t come on this campsite.’ Classic!

Today we tried really hard to get a final snorkel in. No go. All trips to the outer reef are suspended and the rest of it was like swimming in weak hot chocolate. Apparently the reef around there has been seriously damaged by trawlers anyway. I’ll not start my rant about the horrors of trawling and what an environmental disaster they are but i’m biting that lip hard! Anyway, at least we tried to snorkel and we got to see some excellent reef and fish on our sail of the Whitsundays. show_random($num=4, $tags=’MissionBeach’); ?>

Much love to you all!

Viv

Sailing the Whitsundays

We have just got back from a pleasant couple of days sailing the Whitsunday Islands aboard the ‘Ron of Argyll’. Unfortunately the weather was not with us and we ended up with 3 overcast days which meant that snorkelling could either not be attempted or was not the best. However we did have one excellent snorkel on a patch of the great barrier reef with a great variety of coral and an even greater variety of fish. We were in the water for about half an hour and just kept spotting new fish that we hadn’t seen before even towards the end of that time. The fish have such vivid and irridescant colours, it’s a really beautiful scene. Some of the fish were very inquisitive and would come to check you out, one fish looked a bit evil and had sharp teeth which unnerved me when it approached. Viv got bitten by a fish too when she was feeding them bread, it mistook her finger for the bread!

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That snorkel was defintely the highlight in what was otherwise a slightly dissapointing experience. The boat was too crowded and the others on the trip, while all pleasant enough, were not anyone that we shared much of a rapport with. We also both found that we do get a bit sea sick so the times when we were sailing for a while weren’t the most pleasant as we spent the time lying down feeling queasy. It was nice to get back on solid ground again.

Finally, congratulations to Viv’s sister Jane who has just had a baby boy, here’s hoping he doesn’t grow up to be a spurs fan like his father!

CAPTION COMPETITION

A mystery prize is available for the most inventive and amusing caption for a currently untitiled photograph on my flickr site.

The photo shows John making a phonecall under the supervision of an amphibious friend. What shall I call it?

Get those imaginations to work!

See you all after our boat trip!

Viv xxx

(No frogs were harmed in the creation of this image) (Actually, we didn’t even touch it. It’s clearly a very nosey creature).

When it rains, it pours

As Viv said in the last post the caving was really great, felt proper adventurous and jeez those holes were tight! I’m just glad that I had lost a bit of weight since leaving the UK else I’m not sure I could have got through, fortunately we didn’t attempt the hole named ‘rebirth’ – those cavers have some great names for bits of the cave!

After the caving we headed up to Mackay and got wet putting up our tent, wetter walking to the supermarket and soaking on the walk back. At night the tent did what it does best and warmly invited the rain to come join the party inside the tent – a free water bed! If anyone is planning to visit Mackay then don’t bother staying at the Central Tourist Park – it’s shit. There’s no kitchen (thankfully there was a pizza takeaway over the road), nowhere to sit that’s out of the rain other than the tent and you have to rely on Mackay’s poor public transport (although at least it had some, most of Australia doesn’t) to get you out there. It is also bloody ugly.

Fortunately we only had to spend one night in the crapsite, our next couple of nights were far more pleasurable and spent at Cape Hillsborough national park. As ranted in my previous post we had to get a tour out there which consisted of being shown a low-production value video about the region on the way out there and then being taken on a couple of short walks by a guide. Granted the walks were very pleasant and Glenn the guide did give some interesting insight into the area’s environment but all in all it was a pretty uninventive tour. Anyway once the tour was done we had a couple of days in the park to ourselves before getting picked up again and having to do another tour with Glenn (along 2 tracks that we had already walked ourselves). Our campsite was great – right on the beach and nestled under shady trees and surrounded on all sides by ants’ nests. Actually the later part wasn’t so great as my polka dot feet gladly will testify if asked. We got to see mangrove forests, deadly and non-deadly snakes, rhinocerous beetles, ghost bats, lots of crabs and some birds that didn’t move at all when you approached in the mistaken belief that you couldn’t see them disregading the fact that their plumage wasn’t green and that they were sitting on grass. Probably not contenders for the avian branch of mensa. It was a great couple of days and we even got to have our first camp fire of the trip, made by my own fair hands – I felt like a man! Fires rule! The excessive quantity of seam sealer that has now been liberally applied to the tent also seems to have persuaded the tent that water is best kept on the outside. show_random($num=4, $tags=’CapeHillsborough’); ?>

We then popped back to Mackay for the night this time staying in the much better YHA which came with the added bonus of getting a free view of hundreds of flying foxes (fruit bats) gorging themselves on the berries in the big tree right outside our room’s balcony. They made a right racket chattering away to each other and such was the rate at which they were eating we had to run the guantlet between the kitchen and our room to avoid getting pelted with discarded berry stones raining down from the tree above! We also got to see our first possum, a friendly fella who was pretty tame and very cute. It’s interesting to note the difference in image that possums have between Australia and New Zealand – in NZ they’re a pest to be hunted and turned into various dead possum products but in Australia (where they are native) they are a part of the national identity. I guess the Australian possums have a better PR man.

In the morning we headed out on a much better tour to Eungella national park where we swam in a couple of creeks and saw the deeply strange but very endearing duck-billed platypus. They’re much smaller than I had imagined. Our two days in Eungella were spent doing the longest walks that we have yet done in Oz through lush rainforest. It was great to get some really decent exercise again with an added shot of adrenaline when a lethal snake came out of the undergrowth and across the path right where I was standing – I’ve never jumped out of the way so quick! We also saw a couple of lace monitors – they’re huge and just lollop around the forest floor, occassionally stopping to bask in the sun seemingly unfussed by our presence. We also found that, pretty as cockatoos are, they collectively make the most offensive noise of any bird that I have yet heard. On our last day there we had just packed up our tent when the heavens opened and in the 5 minute walk to the bus shelter we got soaked from head to toe including most items in both of our rucksacks. The last couple of days we have had the contents of our bags strewn around room in an effort to dry everything out. One casualty of the downpour is my ipod which while it works fine now refuses to charge up so it looks like I’m without my music for the rest of this trip :-(. Gutted. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Eungella’); ?>

We’re now at Airlie beach, haven for the bratpackers that have been previously ranted about here. We probably didn’t help ourselves by staying at a backpackers that felt like a university hall of residence complete with neighbours who kept us awake till past 4am last night despite my asking them politely to shut up. Their reputation has not been enhanced.

One bit that we both forgot to mention previously was back at Bundaberg where we got to witness loggerhead turtle hatchlings poke their head above the sand for the first time and make their epic journey down the beach to the ocean’s edge for a life in the sea. It was an amazing spectacle to have witnessed, knowing that those of the hatchlings that make it to adulthood will return to these waters and this very same beach to breed in 30 years time – the journey down the beach providing them with a magnetic imprint so that they know where to return to. The turtles are the great travellers of the ocean, those hatchlings will spread out across the seas some making thier home in waters as far away as South America yet still returning to the Queensland coast to breed. The experience was not as intimate as we might have liked as we had to share it with about 60 others. I have to give the rangers their due here though – there were lots of children in the group and they did a great job of keeping them interested and mostly quiet which helped make the experience as good as it was going to get with that size of group.

Apologies for the excessive length of this post, brevity never was my strong point. I’ll leave you there anyhow to return to the far more interesting world of whatever it was you were doing before reading this post (assuming you didn’t just skip down to the bottom). Lots of new pictures up on both of our flickr sites, check them out! We’re off sailing the whitsunday islands for the next couple of, hopefully relaxing, days.

Peace out,

John

Things have got a little better

I was amused to read John’s last post. He so rarely gets frustrated, it’s usually me jumping up and down with steam coming out of my ears. I feel a little better now.

Yesterday was indeed very frustrating but today has been great. We managed to go out caving. There was only us two and the guide so we got to do some tricky moves. After we went through the fairly tight ‘fat man’s nightmare’ (or something like that) we crawled through the ‘skinny man’s horror’ (or whatever) This cave was that tight that you had to take your helmet off and go in arms first. You had to nudge your helmet along and wriggle. It was fantastic. We saw some little bent winged bats and got to go around without the lights on, just feeling our way. It was fantastic and the guide was really passionate about caving. Really getting into this, it may become a hobby when we get home! show_random($num=4, $tags=’capricorn’); ?>

Outside of the caves there were wallabies sprawled all over the place. Displaying dangly bits and totally ignoring all humans. John nearly trod on one. He’s rather good at not looking where he’s going, had to stop him standing on a snake last week. I suppose his feet are rather a long way from his face. ;). show_random($num=1, $tags=’wallaby’); ?>

Anyway, we’re all happy now and looking forward to a week in the wilderness. Once you manage to get out there it really is truly amazing. But for tonight we have apple pie and custard. Bliss!

Love to everyone back home!

xxxxx Viv/Sev

Tours, tours and more bloody tours

Since leaving Rainbow beach we had a longer than expected stay at Maryborough, a picturesque city/town littered with beautiful colonial buildings and blessed with the friendliest people we have met in Australia. We stayed at a great little campsite and spent a bit of time getting to know a few Aussies staying there and generally just chilling out. At times we felt like the only tourists in town such was the enthusiasm we were greeted with in the tourist office when the old lady who worked there bounded up to us offering help and the old fella who took great delight in explaining every minute detail in the historic shop (featuring food and other products dating back to the 1870s – the owners never threw anything away!) and then offering to take us on a free tour of the city. The much vaunted street market turned out to be a handy outlet for vendors of tat to pass their products off as ‘crafts’ and sell them to unwitting locals and visitors. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Maryborough’); ?>

From there we headed up to the forgettable bundaberg where I played ‘kick ball’ with a rather strange christian evangelist who lived in a caravan and played christian rock at 7 in the morning, I won the ‘kick ball’ 3-1.

We now find ourselves in the even more forgettable Rockhampton: the city where nothing is open, not even a supermarket, on a Sunday. Our first morning in Rockhampton was a very frustrating one trying to book coaches to a couple of national parks that we wanted to visit. The problem with Queensland is that the main bus network only goes up and down the coast, it doesn’t go anywhere even remotely off the well beaten (or more accurately pummelled, hammered and beaten into submission) track that is followed by the bratpackers (copyright Viv!) who infest every beach up and down the coast with thier sun-seeking bland banality. There is generally no public transport to a lot of places of interest leaving us the only option of going on guided tours. Tours being pretty big here you’d expect tour companies to be pretty on the ball to garner your business, well you’d be wrong. Variously we’ve had hassles this morning with tour companies not taking bookings more than 4 days ahead(!), only being able to do a day trip (we wanted to stay for a couple of nights and go back on the same tour bus a couple of days later), then deciding that they could take us there on one day and back on a different day, and then deciding that we’d have to book 2 tours with them to be able to go at all (one for the day we go out and one for the day we go back), the shitty phone system that neglects to tell tell you when your money is running out, and leaving the work experience kid in charge who knew neither a) was the tour running tomorrow or b) was there space in it. After all that it’s no wonder that the well trodden track is just that, as it’s so much bloody hassle to try and doing anything off it without your own transport, ARGH! The net result was that we managed to get it all booked and it only took about 4 hours, an endless supply of coins to feed the thirsty phones, more dollars than we would have spent had there just been a coach to and from these places and not a tour (our preferred option) and an insane amount of frustration at the whole incompetance of the thing!

Right that’s it, rant over. I’m off to get a glass sauvignon blanc and relax.

Australia’s a funny place

I’ve been here almost two weeks and I still can’t decide whether I like it or not. There’s amazing and unique wildlife but the people here are simply not our kind of folk. Don’t get me wrong, on an individual basis we’ve met some really great people. We went out drinking with a really cool dutch guy we met on our trip to Frazer Island last night and we’ve had a cracking and quite evil game of Uno with a lovely German bloke. Everyone else is nice but people being nice doesn’t seem enough.

This part of the Australian coast does seem to attract lots of people that call themselves backpackers. The main difference is that they actually drag large dolly trollies and wear the kind of clothing that would be deeply impractical if you were a real traveller. A big chunck of them seem to be overpriviledged kids spending their parents money on an extended holiday that they call ‘travel’. They go to the beach every day and drink all night. They are not really interested in what is unique and beautiful about Australia. The backpackers hostel we stayed at in Noosa was just like an 18-30s club (or 18-21s more like). Bah humbug. Having the opportunity to travel is taken for granted as if it’s a right. It isn’t. We feel guilty for contributing to the greenhouse effect but at least we’re trying to learn about the places we visit. Most of the kids on the beach might as well be in Spain.

Oh dear. I think you have all just witnessed another Viv rant, get used to it my friends…..

Everything you’ve just read was written yesterday. I got into too much of a rant and couldn’t finish the post. John and a few beers soon had me sorted out.

Today I am over the moon. My sister, Jane, just sent me a picture of her with the biggest bump I could ever imagine. My niece or nephew will be here soon. It’s so exciting. I now feel I can cointinue to fill you in on what we’ve been up to since John’s last post.

We’ve been to Gagaju bush camp. It’s a bit like a hippy commune in the Australian everglades. It was a brilliant escape from commercial Australia for a few days and I really can’t say enough good things about it. Most of the other people pretty much lived there and we were welcomed in as if we were just friends coming to stay over. There were some funny characters around and people from many nationalities. A british guy that lives there goes out shark fishing. He once brought a bull shark home big enough to feed 18 people. That’s pretty good as they are the reason that you can’t swim in the sea around here. A young woman was killed by a couple of them around christmas. On our second day an old scottish bloke turned up there for 2 months holiday. He was pretty drunk and liked to sing a song of his own composition about camomile lotion. Then repeat, then repeat a little less clearly, then repeatedly deteriorate. Ha ha!

The only trouble with camping in the everglades is mosquitos. I was suffering from over exposure to mozzy coils a little by the time we’d finished. We saw a good tiger snake/Cane toad fight too. There were also Owls that made scary heavy breating noises right outside the tent and laughing Kookaburras sounding like evil goblins. Certainly a unique camping experience. No flying foxes though, i’d really like to see some of those! show_random($num=4, $tags=’Gagaju’); ?>

We’ve also been on a 3 day trip to Frazer Island. It’s the biggest sand island in the world and apart from one or two rocks is made entirely of very fine yellow sand. It was a nice enough place but we were extremely lucky, our tour guide was a retired ecologist who used to work on the island. He did one trip a fortnight just as a hobby. We learned so much about the habitats and ecosystems on the island and in Australia in general. A lot of the things he was telling us I had learned at University but had never seen in the real world. It was fantastic to see it all and brought back the fascination I’d had for the subject at Uni. My mind is now whirring away with possible new careers. John has also been thinking and we’re both feeling really inspired and optimistic. We’re certainly more focussed now and will be looking to repeat that kind of experience. show_random($num=4, $tags=’FrazerIsland’); ?>

Anyway, Australia. Well, I don’t know. It’s naturally wonderful but a frustrating place to be when you get into the towns. Couldn’t live here. However, John and I had a fun evening on a very dark beach last night with Jonas the hilarious dutch guy we met. Being on the beach in the dark when you’re drunk isn’t really the best idea, we woke up to the treat of a brand new sand outer body layer. Saves money on exfoliating lotion.

Before I go I should mention that there are new photos being loaded all the time.

Love to you all

Viv/Sev xx

Made it to Aussie!

Easy Folks!

We have made it to Australia where we have now been for almost a week. We have spent a few days in Brisbane finding our feet and looking on aghast at the food prices and in reaction to that trying to live off budget cheese sandwiches and budget beans on budget toast for our time in Australia. This lasted about 2 days and we just decided we’ll have to pay the market rate for food rather than eat shit. I think the camp pie experience (looks like cat food, tastes like cat food, bears no resemblance to pie) was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Actually since we have left Brisbane the food prices seem a lot more reasonable and we stand a chance of having a half-way healthy diet on a budget. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Brisbane’); ?>

Brisbane was a pleasant place to spend a couple of days with great botanic gardens to chill out in, it’s nice to see a bit of bustle in a city again. There was even some good industrial era architecture amongst the skyscrapers of varying degrees of uglyness.

Once our feet had been found we put them to good use walking across Brisbane with heavy packs on our backs to get a bus to Lamington National Park. We had bought a tent in Brisbane and spent our first nights camping here in the rainforest. There were loads of little pademelons hopping around our campsite eating grass like rabbits, one even had a baby pademelon in its pouch – they’re very cute and not too timid. We also got mobbed by rosella and king parrots when feeding them some grain – at one point I had 5 parrots on my arms and head! The rainforest here is really lush and we went for some great walks in them seeing lots of waterfalls, some great views over the plains and lots of lizards including big black skinks, not seen any venemous snakes yet though which I’m dissapointed about, but Viv isn’t. I also got eaten by a leech on a walk, it got rather attached to me. The nights were pretty cool too as you could hear all the rainforest noises including the eerie howl of packs of dingoes. On our last morning there it pissed it down with rain and we discovered that our ultra-cheap tent ($30) was not ultra-waterproof so we got a bit soggy. show_random($num=4, $tags=’Lamington’); ?>

We arrived in Noosa yesterday and had a fun night last night playing uno with other backpackers. It very hot here and to prove it I’ve developed a highly attractive heat rash all over my body, sure that will get all beach babes flocking in preference to toned and oiled surfer dudes who are abound here.

We have an Australian mobile phone that we can recieve calls on without us having to sign away our first-born child (just to clarify – there’s not one on the way!) to a mobile phone company just for the priviledge of receiving a call. It is 0061 (0)4-31381877 and don’t forget that we’re 10 hours ahead of UK time, be great to hear from any of you!

Right, I’m off to wow the girls with my spotty back.

J-Hob